Thursday, July 30, 2015

Happy Hour is Back

by Ryan Anderes

Two weeks ago, the State of Illinois re-instituted an old favorite when they made "happy hour" legal again. Happy hour was banned in 1989, but I remember many stories being told of some drink-inspired shenanigans at the old Uptown prior to it being revoked.

Of course, there is concern over the ruling. Many people - even some business owners - will contend that this could, and will, lead to more binge drinking as guests would be encouraged to drink as much discounted liquor as possible in a short time frame. The consequence would be an increase in drunk-driving fatalities.

But many groups and restaurant owners have been advocating for happy hour's return for some time... and now it is back. Restaurants and bars can legally discount liquor for a few hours a day as opposed to having to offer beer, wine or liquor at the same price for an entire day.

In my 14 years of legally being able to drink, I have only experienced the joys of happy hour a handful of times. The thing that I like about it - strictly from a business standpoint - is the amount of people that it can bring in during a restaurant's off hours.

I've been many places between the hours of 4 and 6pm for happy hour, and I would always look around and think, "It must be pretty nice to have a full bar or even just a few patrons in the restaurant during such traditionally slow hours."

Even though most of those sales are discounted, it's better than not having any sales at all, right? Here, we are usually lucky to have 4 or 5 tables by 5pm, and our rushes don't typically start until 6.

I think there are some benefits to businesses like us from this new ruling, but we certainly understand the other side of the coin as well. The bottom line is that people need to remain responsible, happy hour or no happy hour.

Whether you agree or disagree with the ruling, however, there may be an entirely different reason behind its return
. When you read between the lines, the law includes a "requirement that all servers of alcohol in the state take responsible server training. That training began in Cook County July 1 and will be phased in throughout the state over the next two years."

We here at the Uptown, always skeptical, know what this course entails. It is time consuming, and it will cost each person or business... money. We just went through this with the state food handlers safety course that all food handlers must take, and now that version will be extended to liquor. Yes, trained employees watching for drunk customers is a good thing when simply explaining what the course aims to do.

But as a professional in the service industry, it doesn't take much to realize when someone should no longer be served. Is this just another way for the state to generate more revenue?

Either way, happy hour is back and we now need to decide what we will do about it.

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